Field stories: It’s not what you know, it’s how shallow you can go

Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut worked this summer for Lapland and North Ostrobothnia ELY centres carrying out SEAmBOTH field surveys at Natura2000-reserves in Bothnian Bay area. I will remember this years field surveys in Bothnian Bay not from the endless heatwave but because of all the challenges that we had to conquer resulting from working in shallow areas. I have worked many previous summers in Bothnian Bay and Kvarken, so these problems weren’t new to me. The new thing was that we worked solely in the littoral zone, and my deepest dive this summer was a bit shy from 5 meters. But also because of that, I had a chance to learn more profoundly the ecosystems and species of river estuaries. And I guess it goes without saying, that Natura2000-reserves are simply great places to spend your summer in!

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Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.

Our survey areas were mostly shallow, which always gives its own challenges, as you can’t always wait for the windless days, nor drive straight from A to B. My small bathtub sized plastic boat (it’s more rugged than what it sounds) has top speed of 2.6 knots as its outboard engine has less power than most of the houseware blenders. So it’s not a first choice of transportation in large areas. But it does run in less than 30 cm of water in comparison to my 5 m aluminum boat that needs at least 35 cm (and that’s a stretch, to say least). That difference does sound little, but this summer it was remarkable. The advantage to smaller boat increases when the surveyors jump of and start wading, then you can take the vessel to almost anywhere. Especially in comparison to a 500 kg motorboat…

Surprisingly, we didn’t hit stones not even nearly as often as one would expect. But we had our grim days. One of those days felt like an endless series of hits and groundings. And ended up with propeller being ready to be recycled into pans and pots. On that day water level was extra low, because of the long dry season and because northern winds pushed the water to south. Sadly there’s no pictures of the propeller, as taking pictures wasn’t on my mind when we finally got to the shore after an hour long ride with an engine that was shaking like a crazy weasel on crack.

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The small plastic boat. Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.

We were lucky on the weather, it was mostly great. There were only couple of windy days that stopped our field work completely. As our survey areas were so shallow, there was also possibility to spend days wading and towing the small boat along as a floating tool shelf. Or row it around, if the wind wasn’t too strong.

The drought resulting from the endless heatwave also brought us an interesting situation, when we went to a small gloe just to find it recently dried up. We didn’t let that stop us from exploring it, in a way it was also much easier without the water messing visibility. I just felt myself a bit silly, walking on the shore with my drysuit on.

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The dried up gloe. Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.
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Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) was thriving regardless of the draught. Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.
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Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.
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Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.

As mentioned earlier, mostly the weather was great. It also made an positive problem, because work days tended to get quite long, as only limiting factor was to pack enough food and water to fuel surveyors.

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Photo by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut.

After midnight, boat ride to marina was incredibly beautiful with the sun on horizon and sea calm. We had been boating 14+ hours’ straight and done 400-meters of diving line. For me, these moments, and the magnificent places that you wouldn’t bother traveling to voluntarily because of all the effort needed, are the reason why I keep doing this work.

 

Written by Jussi-Tapio Roininen, biologist/scientific diver, Latvasilmu osk Ympäristöpalvelut

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